Thursday, March 22, 2007

Moving with a Hyundai

In July 2002, I moved to Yuma, Arizona with a fully-paid-off, quite workable car. Only two things were wrong with my old car: (1) It didn't have air-conditioning, and (2) I couldn't roll the driver's side window down because of a chronic problem, which any number of replaced parts had failed to repair. The combination of the two spelled intense discomfort, if not danger to my life, in a climate where daytime temperatures approached 120 degrees Fahrenheit. At my earliest opportunity, I traded it in for the cheapest possible car: a Hyundai Accent with a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty, A/C, and windows that I could roll up and down. I'm still paying for it, in more ways than one.

I have learned since then that you get what you pay for...and you pay for what you get. One of the unexpected joys Hyundai ownership came to light when I moved.

Actually I have moved houses 3 times since I bought the Hyundai. The first time, I didn't use the car at all. I was moving about 1 block down the street. Everything that would fit in boxes, I packed in boxes and wheeled down the street on a 2-wheeled cart, which I picked up from its owner and dropped off again on foot. I made a LOT of trips around the corner with that 2-wheeled cart. Some of the larger items, including my piano, I moved with the aid of a 4-wheeled furniture dolly, and somebody or other helped me. For the couch and a couple other awkward items I imposed on a friend with a pick-up truck. It was the simplest move I ever made, notwithstanding that I was moving into the first house I ever owned.

Moving out of that house wasn't so simple. I had to get all my stuff from Yuma to a small town in east-central Missouri. Obviously this couldn't be done on foot. But when I looked into renting a moving van and towing my Hyundai behind it, I ran across an interesting fact about Hyundai. The car is so low-slung that it simply cannot be towed on a half-dolley, the way I moved my previous car to Yuma. None of the rental outfits even seemed willing to vouch for my vehicle's safety on a full dolley, with all 4 wheels off the ground. I finally ran out of possibilities for having my car towed, and ended up having someone from Missouri fly to Arizona and drive my car while I drove the van.

It was an interesting trip in many ways. It was interesting, for example, to leave Yuma on a cool, drizzly spring morning and reach Flagstaff, six or seven hours later and 7,000 feet higher, on a bitterly cold winter day. It was interesting to share the cab of a moving van with two curious, affectionate, and mostly well-behaved cats. Along a pitch-dark stretch of I-40 in New Mexico, I could tell which one was which mainly by familiarity with their habits: the creature who crawled up on the back of the seat and stretched out behind my shoulders had to be Lionel, and the dead weight that threw itself down against my right thigh had to be Tyrone. It was interesting, to put it mildly, to drive all the way to Amarillo, Texas, in one day with stops only for gas and a couple of meals. But where it really got interesting was on Day 2 when, in Lebanon, Missouri, the transmission on the moving van gave up the ghost.

We spent a good part of Day 3 finagling a new truck out of the local U-haul people. We had to unpack everything off the old truck and pack it on the new truck. Then we started on our last leg of the trip...and found out before we had gone a quarter of a mile that the springs on the new truck were shot. It took a few more miles to catch up with my "chase" driver (who until then had chased me) so we could go back and get this straightened out. But the local folks couldn't do anything for us except give us a 12-foot trailer, into which we now packed some of my belongings, in order to take some of the weight off the bad truck springs. And then, on a rainy day, as night fell, I had to drive on some fairly lousy roads to get to my new home, mindful not only of the truck springs (How could I forget? The whole truck rocked sickeningly from side to side the whole trip) but of the trailer I was towing. I had to spend an extra night in a motel because we got into town so late; I had to unpack almost everything by myself because my schedule change upset the plans certain people had made to help me move in; and when I dropped off the U-haul equipment, the maintenance guys at the store gaped at the completely bald tires (which hadn't been bald when I left Lebanon) and wondered that I hadn't had a major blow-out on the way there. Angels were definitely watching over me (they've made that evident quite a few times in my interesting life).

All this was because Hyundai sold me a car built in such a way that no rental company wanted to take responsibility for towing it on their equipment. When I called the Hyundai Corporation to ask about this, I wasn't encouraged by the voice-mail system that answered. One of the options on the push-button menu was: "To inquire about the low-horsepower class-action lawsuit, press 6..."

The third time I moved, a little over a year ago, was from small-town Missouri to the great city of St. Louis. That time I didn't even bother checking to see if I could tow my car. Here's what I did: I reserved a U-haul at shop in the small town I was moving out of. The day before I planned to move, I walked down a very long, steep hill in very cold weather and picked up the truck, drove it up to my apartment building and left it there. Very early the next morning, I drove my car to St. Louis, parked it at the AmTrak station, and rode a train back to the small-town. Then I walked back up the same very long, steep hill, packed up the truck, and drove it to St. Louis. I had a little help packing the truck; I had almost no help unpacking it.

When I finally tracked down one of my new neighbors (a total stranger, mind you) and bribed/cajoled/guilted him into helping me move the last couple things, he expressed awe at my physical strength. He had watched me move solid-wood dressers and desks into the building unaided. Aw, shucks; I've never considered myself strong, but where there's a will, there's a way. It would have been nice if my new neighbor hadn't paused to say this while I was holding one end of a studio piano 8 inches off the ground.

Then I simply had to drive the van to the U-haul drop-off location, take a cab to AmTrak, and collect my car.

Unfortunately, Uhaul didn't have the size of van I had reserved; I had to settle for what they had, which was several feet shorter. I couldn't move everything in one trip; I had to make another reservation, and follow the same ridiculous plan the following weekend, to get the rest of my stuff.

When I think of things like this, I find myself wishing three things: first, may God save me from having to move again for at least a few years; second, may mankind come to his senses about U-haul and force it to deliver better service or be overtaken by a better competitor; and third, may Old Nick take me before I buy another machine made by "low-horsepower class-action lawsuit" Hyundai.

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